Last season, the Baltimore Ravens fell from their post as the Super Bowl champions to not even making the playoffs, largely due to their offseason activity — or inactivity rather. The team lost Ray Lewis to retirement, Ed Reed and Dannell Ellerbe to free agency, and traded Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers.
As a result, the defense didn’t play up to the typical high standard that has been set in Baltimore, while Joe Flacco lost a pivotal go-to option in his receiving corps. It also didn’t help that injuries hampered Dennis Pitta and Jacoby Jones, and the usually dependable Ray Rice took a major step backward.
Now Pitta and Jones are impending free agents and, whether a deal gets done with one or both, the Ravens will need to strengthen its receiving corp. Both tackles, Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher, are also free agents. The team drafted Matt Elam in the first round to help replace Reed and will likely have to look in that direction again to round out the tandem.
Talks between the team and Pitta are reportedly far apart, and there are concerns about how much Jones, 30, will command in free agency. Knowing how much the Ravens’ offense struggled with just Torrey Smith many mock drafts project the team to nab either a tight end or wideout with either the No. 16 or 17 selection (pending a coin flip with the Dallas Cowboys).
Baltimore may be able to snag the consensus top tight end in this year’s draft, Eric Ebron of North Carolina. Ebron fits the mold of the new hybrid tight end like a Vernon Davis with the ability to block as well as make plays after the catch. Should the team go in the direction of wide receiver, a player like Mike Evans or Kelvin Bejamin could serve as a big target for Flacco — much like Boldin did — taking some attention off of from Smith.
The team is expected to sign either Monroe or Oher, but likely not both, giving the Ravens a hole at one tackle spot and a need to fill at center. A tackle with a high upside like Ju’Wan James or Jack Mewhort could slip to the second or third round and fill that void.
The Ravens will need to add another safety, and whether it’s through free agency or not, the draft has a lot of potential-laden prospects that’ll be around late. Ahmad Dixon of Baylor is a force in the run game and is a ballhawk. LSU’s Craig Loston is a speedy player who packs a powerful punch, and Huff showed his ability to blanket receivers at the Senior Bowl. All should be around Round 4 or later.